“When the crowded Vietnamese refugee boats met with storms or pirates, if everyone panicked all would be lost. But if even one person on the boat remained calm and centered, it was enough. It showed the way for everyone to survive.”-Thich Nhat Hanh
As COVID-19 continues to plague the United States and states fluctuate between lockdowns, the stress and anxiety around the virus gets more intense by the day. Businesses across the country are adjusting to the “new normal,” implementing sanitation and safety measures to both flatten the curve and stay afloat financially, while also trying to ensure that their employees are healthy and happy during this strange time- It’s not an easy task. In addition to event cancellations, supply chain complications, and more immediate tangible losses, the increase in employee stress and anxiety around Coronavirus also has a hefty cost on organizations from absenteeism, lost productivity, and increased healthcare spend. Fortunately, by focusing on mental health, employers are in a unique position to mindfully support their employees during this time of constant change and uncertainty.
So What Can Employers Do?
“The single most important thing that can happen right now in this pandemic is that we feel our collectivity — that we’re really here to help each other move through this. And the truth is each one of us can help. We have a real gift to offer each other just by who we are and how we come forward. If we can find an inner refuge of calm, our calm is contagious.”-Tara Brach
Leaders play a key role in helping to guide and support their employees in a calm and compassionate way. However, if you’re overwhelmed by the stress and anxiety of the situation yourself, your mindset will trickle down to the rest of your organization. Thus, the first crucial thing you can do is take care of yourself and cultivate calm so that the rest of your team can experience calm too.
Although initially this may feel like a selfish escape from reality, many neuroscience studies have shown that mindfulness meditation can help us regulate our own emotions so we can better pay attention to other people and act more altruistically, which is what we need to do right now as a leader.
Lead with Mindfulness & Compassion
“In China, the word for mindfulness is “present heart.” If we keep emphasizing the heart side of things, if we keep offering care to ourselves and others, that’s going to make us much more tender and we’ll live naturally from a more ethical place.“-Tara Brach
It’s important to keep in mind that while we’re all in this pandemic together, each person has unique life circumstances that may cause more or less stress and anxiety around the situation. For example, we don’t know at face value who has vulnerable family members who may be at greater risk, or who already suffers from anxiety and experiences the uncertainty and fear more acutely. Because of this, leading with compassion and empathy is more critical than ever.
Practicing self-compassion during this time is also incredibly important. Learning how to recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture your own emotions is crucial in the process of cultivating calm, and is taught by American psychologist and widely respected teacher of Buddhist meditation, Tara Brach. You can listen to a guided mediation on the RAIN acronym here.
Here are a few practical ways to practice mindful, compassionate leadership:
Present Moment Awareness: Take time to check-in with your team. Look for the unsaid. How are people’s energy levels? How are people feeling?
Listen: Practice mindful listening. Give your team space to be open and honest about how they feel, both mentally and physically.
Pause: In times of high stress and anxiety, it’s easy to let anger get in the way of skillful communication. Pause and give yourself space to respond in a skillful and compassionate way.
Acknowledge: Everyone is going to be feeling a range of different emotions at any given time. Taking the time to acknowledge how someone else is truly feeling enables us to respond with empathy and compassion.
Use Data to Help Show You How Employees Are Affected
Sometimes, it can be hard to determine how stressed your employees are because not all of them will come out and tell you or visually show it. Implementing stress surveys can be a great way to measure and track stress levels across your organization anonymously and will allow you to get a read on stress so you can adapt your workplace mental health programs accordingly, and target specific groups that might be more affected than others with custom resources and tools.
Based on the results, you can recommend tools and resources to help employees reduce their stress levels. Some examples could be mindfulness meditations geared toward reducing fear or anxiety, breathing exercises, dealing with painful emotions or other more intensive digital mental health resources.
Digital Mental Health Resources
Another great way to help employees reduce their stress levels is by investing in a digital mental health resource. When organizations invest in preventive and supportive mental health solutions, a little goes a long way. With COVID-19, workplace health needs have changed dramatically and now more than ever, employees should not need to travel to access the resources they need to cope with and reduce stress and anxiety. With our new behavioral healthcare program, MentallyFit, mindfulness training can be done online and is accessible to all your employees at the click of a button. In our introductory course, “Coping with COVID-19,” your employees will be taught the very best of modern psychology, along with time tested methods to calm down, stay centered, focused, and deeply connected with those they love and serve during this time of crisis. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us today or sign up here.